This Sunday evening in Rome, a beautiful, quiet, clear, cool spring evening, the parish priest of the Santo Spirito in Sassia church (the church next to the world headquarters of the Jesuits, 200 yards from the colonnade around St. Peter’s Square, and the church entrusted by Pope John Paul II to carry out a special devotion to the teaching about Divine Mercy preached by the Polish mystic, St. Faustina Kowalska), Father Giuseppe, a young and dynamic Polish priest, during his sermon on the day’s readings, told a little story I had not heard before.
Last week, he said, last Sunday, on April 7, the Sunday of Divine Mercy — on the eve of which Pope John Paul II died in 2005 — Pope Francis took possession of the cathedral church of the diocese of Rome, St. John Lateran.
But after doing that, while driving back over to the Vatican, Pope Francis, at about 7:15 in the evening — Father Giuseppe looked at his watch; “Yes,” he said, “it was about at this time, about 7:15 in the evening, a little after 7″ — Pope Francis stopped in front of the church, evidently out of respect for the Divine Mercy devotion practiced in this church, on Divine Mercy Sunday.
“Yes, it was about 7:15 in the evening,” Father Giuseppe said, still preaching his homily, and paused. “Pope Francis asked his driver to stop the car in front of the church, for a few moments. And when a few people noticed he was there, a crowd quickly gathered.
“And there was a young couple walking by, just at that time, in the providence of God. A young couple who had fallen away from the church. A young couple who were planning to be married. And when they saw the crowd gathering, they stopped, and they too caught a glimpse of the Pope.
“And catching a glimpse of Pope Francis, they were moved, deep within, and a few minutes later, after the Pope moved on, they came into the church. And they spoke with me for some time, and they want to again draw close to the church, because of the unusual events of that evening, because they saw the Pope stop in front of the church, just as they were walking by.
“And when I see the Pope, and I am sure that I will have a chance to see him, I will tell him this story, the story of how his decision to stop his car on the Feast of Divine Mercy, in front of this church dedicated to the Divine Mercy, brought mercy to those two young people, in such a tangible way that they wanted to change their lives and draw close again to God and to Christ.
“Little miracles of God’s mercy are always occurring, and that was one of them.”